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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 06:22 GMT 07:22 UK
Black lawyers attack 'evidence'
Conrad Black
Conrad Black did not give evidence
There is no evidence to prove that media baron Conrad Black pocketed money that did not belong to him, his defence lawyers have claimed.

Instead, they accused prosecutors of pinning their case on the "unreliable" testimony of former Black colleague David Radler, a self-confessed "liar".

The once newspaper tycoon is on trial accused of stealing money owed to investors, which he denies.

The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict next week.

'Distraction'

In closing arguments, defence lawyers argued that the British peer was being persecuted for his successful career and wealthy lifestyle.

"In America, you do not convict someone for being rich," said Edward Greenspan.

"The government is trying to distract you," he added.

Prosecutors told the court that Lord Black and his co-defendants - former Hollinger International employees Jack Boultbee, Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis - deceived Hollinger's board of directors about the true nature of the money they took out of the business.

These, they say, were disguised as "non-competition" payments as part of the sale of hundreds of US and Canadian newspaper titles.

These payments are designed to reimburse a company for not competing in a market it has exited, but in Hollinger's case, the money was not requested by the newspaper buyers and was used by Lord Black to enrich himself, the prosecution claim.

No 'smoking gun'

Mr Greenspan hit back at these allegations, arguing that the prosecution have failed to prove their authenticity.

The government didn't have a smoking gun because there isn't one
Edward Greenspan

He pointed out to the court that the only evidence that Lord Black deliberately stole the money was claims of alleged phone calls - without backup documents - by Mr Radler, who admitted on the stand that he repeatedly lied to investigators to cut the best deal.

Mr Radler pleaded guilty to participating in the fraud in return for a reduced sentence and co-operating with the authorities.

"The government didn't have a smoking gun because there isn't one," said Mr Greenspan.

"They had no case so they were left with David Radler, a man so ready to lie to save himself."

The defence attorney also noted the lack of unhappy shareholders to take the witness stand in the 14-week trial.

He then played parts of a tape recording of a shareholder meeting in 2003 in which a key Hollinger investor, Mason Hawkins of Southeastern Asset Management, called Lord Black's management "as good as you will get in the newspaper world".

At its height, Hollinger was one of the biggest names in newspaper publishing, with titles such as the Jerusalem Post and Britain's Daily Telegraph.

Its former boss faces charges of charges of fraud, obstruction of justice and racketeering and, if convicted, could spend decades in jail.




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